Monday, September 29, 2008

Eagle Eye

Apart from his acting skills, Shia LeBeouf can really run. He's run in "Transformers", "Indiana Jones", and "Disturbia" (limited in range due to ankle bracelet). He's making a career out of running and in "Eagle Eye", he's at the top of his running game.

This is an exciting chase film that leaves much logic behind but is action packed and very suspenseful. It's a perfect Indian summer popcorn movie. Besides Mr. LaBeouf, the film stars Michelle Monaghan (his running "partner"), Billy Bob Thornton (the FBI agent running after him), Rosario Dawson ( the Military agent running after everyone), and Michael Chiklis (the Secretary of Defense who doesn't run at all but he does enough running on "The Shield").

The film borrows liberally from movies like "Enemy of The State", "any Bourne film, the last "Die Hard", "Wargames" and especially the 60's film, "Collosus:The Forbin Project" but still manages to put a spin on current technology and character twists and turns. Like it's lead character, it's not that smart but still fun to watch. One thing is for certain, you will leave the theater with a high level of paranoia.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Burn After Reading

Following the dramatic masterpiece, "No Country For Old Men", the Coen Brothers return to familiar waters in this silly, yet violent, comedy. The film plays like a cross between "Blood Simple" and Intolerable Cruelty".

Featuring an all-star cast, many of whom are Coen Brother regulars, the film is a twisted tale of cheating spouses, unlikely blackmailers, and inept CIA agents. Frances McDormand, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton, J.K. Simmons, Richard Jenkins and John Malkovich all seem to be really enjoying themselves as they lie, steal, cheat, and sometimes kill with reckless abandon.

There is no depth to the screenplay. The story is set in motion when a former CIA agent, played by Mr. Malkovich decides to write his memoirs and they end up in the wrong hands. It's all superficial fun (except when 2 major characters are killed) and doesn't ask much of it's audience except to sit back and enjoy the shenanigans. It's fun to watch but 90 minutes later, you'll probably "forget after viewing".

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Righteous Kill

Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino together for an entire film....Critic proof! And a good thing too because this is more ill than kill.

The pairing of these two screen icons is too good to pass up but someone should have thought about a plot worthy of acting legends, rather the the ridiculous, implausible, obvious bore that is "Righteous Kill". The film creeps along with both actors mugging their way through a serial killer plot filled with simply laughable dialog.

Along for the ride is Carla Gugino as a NY CSI, Brian Dennehy as the tough talking police Lieutenant and Donnie Wahlberg and John Leguizamo as fellow detectives following cops DeNiro and Pacino on the same case. Also in a key role is rapper 50 Cent playing a drug dealing club owner...big stretch there, Fitty.

The fast forward plot device points to one person responsible for all the murders but if you are still awake and paying attention, the identity of the killer should be pretty obvious anyway.

I expected more from the writer of "Inside Man", Spike Lee's excellent bank heist film from last year and obviously more from Mr. DeNiro and Mr. Pacino but this one is all about a paycheck. If you are a fan (and who isn't), save time and money and rent it later this year on DVD.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hamlet 2

Written and directed by Andrew Fleming, Hamlet 2 is this year's "Napoleon Dynamite". It is most definitely a left of center comedy with flashes of brilliance but not for everyone.

The film stars the British actor, Steve Coogan, as an American drama teacher trying to keep it together in Tucson Arizona. His life is a mess. His acting career never got off the ground, his student can't stand him, his wife has become distant, and his plays (based on movies) are a flop. Things start to change as he decides to stage his original work, Hamlet 2.

Catherine Keener co-stars as Mr. Coogan's unsupportive wife. She always shines in quirky films like this and is very well cast. David Arquette plays a man sharing their home for extra income and Amy Poehler has a very funny part as an lawyer, named coincidently, Feldstein.

Mr. Coogan is terrific in the film playing a very odd character. This is a very original story with what appears to be a logical plot that veers off in a bizarre direction. It makes a great double feature with the aforementioned, "Napoleon Dynamite".

Saturday, September 06, 2008


This suspenseful new film explores what makes a terrorist and questions loyalty and religion with a conflicted lead character intelligently played by Don Cheadle.

As the film opens we meet Mr. Cheadle's character, Samir Horn as he is selling weapons to an unnamed terrorist group. Samir is a Muslim who's father was killed by a car bomb and his motives may not be all them seem. Soon he finds himself being pursued by two FBI agents played by Guy Pierce and Neal McDonough.

The action moves globally and makes for quite the travelogue as the two agents chase Horn around the world in an attempt to stop further acts of terrorism. There are some major twists that we've seen before in other films but they are used very effectively here and the film ratchets up the suspense as the terrorists plan an attack on US soil.

"Traitor" is an effective thriller heightened by the always excellent Don Cheadle. It's an intelligent film (despite some plot holes) with themes that don't always have easy answers but it's compelling just the same. It did leave me feeling uneasy as it hits close to home and could give the wrong people real ideas.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Vicky Christina Barcelona

A light summer romp from writer/director Woody Allen. "VCB" is a visual treat both in terms of the scenery and it's leading actors. The film stars Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, Javier Bardem, and Penelope Cruz as friends and lovers all romantically involved over a summer in Barcelona.

Filming in a new city seems to have refreshed Mr. Allen and the film succeeds on many levels. The cinematography paints a lovely picture of Barcelona.The dialog is fresh, clever and intelligent. The acting is perfect as everyone is very well cast. Ms. Cruz, in particular, ignites the second half of the film as Maria Elena, Mr. Bardem's unstable ex-wife. Rebecca Hall is also terrific as the conflicted, Vicky.

The film is one of Mr. Allen's sexiest, while still within PG-13 limits. To call it a comedy is a stretch but it does have some fine comedic moments and is far lighter in tone than "Matchpoint", one of Mr. Allen's most recent successes.